How to check your credit record
If you’re curious about your credit score, or worried about arrears affecting future borrowing, checking your credit report is easy. Here’s how to check your credit history, your credit check rights, & what your credit score means.
Why should you check your credit report?
It’s good to review your credit history from time to time, by requesting your own credit report, particularly if you’re looking to apply for credit.
Lenders check your credit record to decide whether they can lend to you, and how much your borrowing will cost.
They also use it to check your name and address details, so make sure these are correct and up to date.
Even if you think your credit score is good, you may discover things on your report you didn’t know about. It can flag up things like:
- Arrears on an old loan you’d forgotten about e.g. a student loan
- A loan still showing as outstanding, that’s actually been cleared
- Loan arrears that have long been paid off
- Credit that you didn’t apply for - you may be a victim of impersonation
It can also remind you of when you last had arrears and how long you’ve been free of them. This can be useful when choosing a lender, because some have stricter lending criteria than others.
Your credit check rights
If you find things on your report that you disagree with, you have the right to:
- Add a statement of up to 200 words
- Apply for the information to be amended
- Report suspected impersonation
You should report any errors to the lender, not the credit agency as it’s the lender that must request for the information to be changed.
What is bad credit?
It’s when you struggle to keep up to date with all your financial commitments, and this is recorded on your credit record.
This can include missed or late payments for:
- Credit cards
- Hire purchase agreements e.g. when you buy furniture
- Personal contract purchases e.g. when you buy a car
Bad credit is often caused by not having enough income to cover your outgoings each month, so you fall behind on payments.
Making late payments, or missing payments sends you into arrears which are hard to get out of. This can spiral into a long history of poor credit that makes borrowing very difficult.
What is a credit score?
A credit score or rating is given to show whether your current credit status is good or bad at a particular time.
The Irish Credit Bureau gives each credit record a score between 224 and 581, but it isn’t visible unless you or a lender asks to see it.
Your credit score is based on your credit history at that time. As well as current loans you may have, it also includes information about inactive loans that were closed in the last five years.
What does your score mean?
The higher the score, the better your credit history.
If you have a higher credit score, you’re considered less risky by potential lenders because you’re more likely to make all your repayments on time.
Lenders may use your score in part, to help them decide:
- Whether they will lend to you
- How much they will lend you
- What interest rate they can offer you
Having a high credit score isn’t a guarantee that a lender will lend to you, and having a low score doesn’t always mean you won’t be able to borrow any credit.
Sometimes lenders use their own scoring system rather than using your credit score from the ICB.
The Central Credit Register doesn’t score credit reports so the lender would need to rely on their own scoring method.
How to improve your credit score
There are many ways you can boost your credit score, including:
- Checking your credit report regularly: to ensure it has no mistakes, and is showing any new payments you’ve made.
- Reporting any errors to the lender: so your report can be updated. You can also add a statement to your record, for example, to explain why an account is in arrears.
- Clearing any arrears: and then making all future payments in full and on time.
- Reducing your outstanding credit: before applying for more, so that you meet lenders’ affordability checks.
- Waiting to apply for credit: from when your arrears have been cleared, to reduce your chances of being declined by lenders.
- Minimising credit checks by lenders: by researching what their lending criteria is. Too many checks will negatively affect your credit score.
Credit record FAQs
How long will information about my loans stay on my credit report for?
Details will be kept about your credit agreements for five years from when they’ve been paid off.
For example, if you have a personal loan that runs for three years, lenders will be able to see information about its history for a further five years, until it’s then wiped from your record.
If I request my credit report, can it affect my credit rating?
No, you can request as many checks as you need and it won’t affect your credit score or rating.
Too many credit checks made by lenders when you apply for credit can affect your credit score, as it’s a sign that you’re having difficulty getting credit.
What happens if I find a mistake on my credit report?
If you find a mistake, you should contact the lender it relates to and ask them to correct the information they submitted to the credit agency.
The credit agency can’t change the information unless the lender advises them to.
What is the Central Credit Register?
It’s operated and owned by the Central Bank of Ireland, and has been storing information about loans of €500 and over, since 2017.
Lenders must register details of loans with the Central Credit Register by law.
It’s also a requirement that lenders check your credit report using this database for any loans of €2,000 or more - and they don’t need your consent to do this.
What is the Irish Credit Bureau (ICB)?
The ICB is owned by its members, such as: banks, card issuers, mortgage providers and local authorities.
It was formed in to help: speed up the process of getting credit, reduce the cost of credit, and help prevent fraud.
More than 300 lending institutions submit information to the ICB every month, and these lenders can also access your credit report to check your lending history with other lenders.
Once a credit agreement has ended, information about it will remain on the database for five years.
The ICB doesn’t have the power to decide who gets credit, that’s up to the lender.
Will I always have a credit score?
No, here are some circumstances where you won’t have a score:
- If the lender doesn’t request your score when they run a credit check with the ICB
- If you’ve only recently got a loan
- If the loan has been inactive for quite a while
Will my credit score stay the same?
No. It’s only a snapshot of your credit status at a particular time so unless your credit and behaviour never changes, your score won’t stay the same.
It is possible to maintain a good score though by always paying on time and in full. It’s also possible to turn a bad score into a good score, and vice versa.
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